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Unintended Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles

Unintended acceleration. You may or may not have heard of it, but this glitch has caused many scares for hundreds of drivers throughout the nation. Toyota is one of the major automobile manufacturers at the center of this investigation and has recalled nearly 8 million vehicles across the U.S. Unintended acceleration (UA) is an event that causes a car to accelerate without any prompting from the driver. In many cases of UA, the cause was not known, which is what prompted the NHTSA-NASA investigation at the request of Congress.

The NHTSA, along with NASA engineers, completed a ten-month probe into UA among Toyota vehicles. The Department of Transportation referred to this study as “unprecedented” because most investigations are not nearly this extensive. Specifically, investigators focused on the electronic throttle control (ETC) systems in Toyota vehicles to determine that an inherent defect in the design of these ETCs was the cause of the UA.

According to the NHTSA,

NASA did not find an electronic cause of large throttle openings that can result in UA incidents. NHTSA did not find a vehicle-based cause of those incidents in addition to those causes already addressed by Toyota recalls.

The investigation was, however, successful in identifying two possible causes of vehicle-based UA. Both were related to something called pedal entrapment (aka “sticky pedal”). In one event, the “vacuum assist” function of the pedal can cause problems. When the vacuum assist function fails to perform its proper function, the accelerator pedal can become stuck and lead to unintended acceleration. In some other situations, there is the potential for the floor mat on the driver’s side to become stuck and trap the pedal in a full-throttle position.

Although no electronic defects in Toyota vehicles was found to be a cause of UA, the NHTSA did recommend certain actions and additional safety rules for all vehicles. The recommendations included:

  • Required brake override systems
  • Standardize operation of keyless ignition vehicles
  • Required installation of data recorders in all passenger vehicles
  • Conduct further research on electronic control systems
  • Conduct further research on ideal placement for accelerator and brake pedals

In addition to the nearly 8 million recalls, Toyota also agreed to pay nearly $50 million in civil penalties to people whose vehicles were affected by UA. Toyota is not the only manufacturer that was required to recall and investigate its vehicles. Audis, Hondas and Jeeps were among the other types of vehicles in which UA was a factor.

If you or someone you care about has been affected by unintended acceleration in any motor vehicle, contact a Las Vegas car accident lawyer at Shook & Stone. Our firm has experience in the areas of auto accidents as well as auto product liability and can fight to see that you get the compensation you deserve!


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